The Helen Bamber Foundation has submitted a short report to the UK Home Office recommending that urgent action is taken to protect and safeguard survivors of Modern Slavery as a result of the Covid-19 Public Health crisis. The report is widely supported by NGOs, academics and legal representatives across the UK with 56 co-signatories.
There is no foreseeable end to the current pandemic crisis. To ensure the ongoing protection, safety and health of survivors of modern slavery during the Covid-19 public health crisis and through the gradual emergence from it, we are calling for a coherent Government strategy to be published together with the creation of a ‘Modern Slavery Covid-Crisis Committee’ comprising clinical and anti-trafficking experts who can provide guidance on implementation of the strategy and recommended actions for urgent procedural measures.
The risks faced by survivors of Modern Slavery – which are a serious concern at any time – are compounded by the Covid-19 public health crisis, which means that they are particularly vulnerable. Isolation, poverty and poor housing conditions, underlying health conditions, lack of access to appropriate care and essential services and experiences of marginalisation all contribute to survivors being unable to manage this crisis and to defend themselves effectively against Covid-19. Many survivors live in fear of threats and reprisals from traffickers and can face the risks of re-trafficking and other crimes being committed against them, particularly at times of crisis or increased vulnerability.
This particularly applies to survivors of Modern Slavery who have insecure immigration status (those who are without leave to remain in the UK at all, or have been granted short terms of leave to remain (1 year or less). Certainty of secure immigration status enables survivors to regain the confidence they need to remain safe, to avoid further trafficking risks, to pursue social reintegration in employment, education and the community, and to contribute positively to society.
Summary of recommendations
The urgent priority for survivors of modern slavery who lack secure immigration status in the UK is to prevent their situation remaining precarious and becoming increasingly dangerous. In our report we explain the Government can support the protection, safety and health of survivors by:
“Urgent action is required to make sure that during this crisis no survivor of Modern Slavery is re-victimised. Fears about immigration status is one of the key concerns survivors we work with tell us about when we speak to them. Granting 3 years leave to remain will mean that all survivors can be confident about their right to live safely in the UK throughout this crisis and therefore remain safe and avoid further trafficking risks.”
Kerry Smith, Chief Executive Officer of the Helen Bamber Foundation